As soon as I entered the stadium and ran to the right field seats, I got Phil Hughes to throw me a ball. Five seconds later, Hughes saw me catch a Brett Gardner ground-rule double — I told him I’d give it to a kid — and ten seconds after that, he saw me bolt one section to my left and lunge over the wall and catch a home run ball that had bounced down from the second deck and landed on the warning track and skipped back up to me because of the backspin. (Phew!) Hughes was stunned, and hell, so was I. I’d just snagged three baseballs in less than half a minute, and I nearly got another soon after. Check out the following photo:
Do you see the little white speck below the guard? That’s a home run ball that had landed deep in the bleachers and trickled down to the front. The guard couldn’t find it, so I pointed it out, hoping that she’d hook me up because there weren’t ANY other fans in sight . . . but no. Some other guard who was stationed at the top of the bleachers started yelling at her not to give it to me because I’d just gotten three balls, so she held onto it and gave it to the first fan to enter her section, who happened to be a middle-aged man with no glove. Hmph.
Several minutes later, I hastily photographed the three balls:
Then I headed to left field and gave one to a kid.
Things were dead out there, at least until the Red Sox started warming up:
Andrew Bailey tossed me my 4th ball of the day in the front row. Then I moved to the back of the section and caught a Cody Ross homer on the fly. I gave that ball to the nearest kid, and then I caught three more homers on the fly. (No idea who hit them.) I tossed two of those balls to some kids in the front row of the bleachers — and I was only getting started.
Here’s a photo (taken by my friend Andrew Bingham) that shows me jumping for and catching another homer:
In case you can’t tell, I’m the guy wearing tan pants, and by the way, the fan in the red shirt is a friend and fellow ballhawk named Mark McConville. Part of me felt bad for him because he was right behind me for most of the home runs that I caught. The other part had no sympathy because he’d chosen to be there. I mean, he could’ve been anywhere else in the entire stadium, and I even suggested (on more than one occasion) that he move to the next staircase. His response was simple: “It’s too crowded over there.” He was right. It WAS too crowded. We were clearly in the best spot. I just happened to end up in the slightly better spot.
Now, just so YOU don’t feel too bad for Mark, I should mention that at the start of the day, when we were in right field, he caught two homers in front of me. I should also mention that he finished the day with five balls, including one that he wouldn’t have gotten without me. In Mark’s defense/praise, he was *very* respectful of me and my space. Whenever I was camped underneath a ball, he didn’t shove me or try to jump over me — not that I would’ve done that to him, but still, I just want it to be known that he’s a good dude.
Here’s another photo (taken by Andrew) that shows me tracking another home run:
Did you notice the white thing in my right hand? Those were my notes, which I’d been frantically scribbling on the back of my rosters. Take a look at them and then I’ll explain a few things underneath:
1) I wore my Homer Simpson shirt during the Yankees’ portion of BP; I’d gotten Hughes to throw me the ball by yelling, “How ’bout a ball for Homer?!”
2) “GR 2B” means “ground-rule double.”
3) When I cross out a ball, it means I gave THAT ball away. In addition to the three cross-outs, I also noted two other balls that I gave away. After my 3rd and 12th balls of the day, I wrote “gave one” in order to remind myself when it happened.
4) I was indeed standing in the camera well when Bailey hooked me up.
5) Nearly half of the Red Sox’s baseballs had the Camden Yards 20th anniversary commemorative logo, so whenever I caught one, I wrote “Camden” — that is, if I remembered or had time.
6) My 9th ball of the day was a home run that landed in the seats, so that’s why I wrote “seats.” I didn’t catch it on the fly. If you count all the balls that do have the word “fly” written next to them (or quotation marks under the word “fly,” as is the case with my 7th and 8th balls), you’ll see that I legitimately *caught* eight home runs. Including the ball that had bounced down from the 2nd deck and the one that I grabbed in the seats, I snagged 10 home runs. Including the Brett Gardner double, I snagged 11 batted balls.
7) After my 9th ball of the day, I mis-numbered my lifetime total. (For Ball No. 10, I should’ve written “6448” but wrote “6446” instead.) Everything got messed up after that, and I corrected it later with a different pen. To be clear, though, I knew exactly how many balls I had, and my lifetime total is accurate; I just had a little brain-fart along the way.
Here’s a photo that I took toward the end of BP:
As you can see, it was kinda crowded, but not THAT crowded. I had a little bit of room to run, but hardly needed it. Most of the homers landed within five feet of where I was standing. It was incredible and almost unbelievable. I’d never had so many balls come right to me like that. For the record, no one was pissed at me for catching so many because I kept giving them away to little kids.
Looking back at my notes, I see that I wrote the word “Camden” three times, but in fact I snagged four of those balls:
I made sure not to give any of the commemorative balls away.
This was my view during the game:
It was the final day of the regular season, and two different divisions had not yet been decided. At least that’s what I thought when I looked at the scoreboard:
See the top score below the arrow? The A’s and Rangers began the day tied for first place. This was the first time that I saw the final score, and I was very happy about the outcome. I tend to root for underdogs. And I’m also sick of the Rangers. And, you know, George Bush.
Meanwhile, do you see the score at the bottom of the column? The Rays were beating the Orioles, 1-0, in the top of the 2nd inning — a huge game because the Yankees began the day with a one-game lead over the Orioles. In other words, if the Orioles were to beat the Rays AND the Yankees were to lose to the Red Sox, then there’d be a bonus/163rd game the following day in Baltimore to determine the division winner.
So much for that.
With one out in the bottom of the 7th, there was an announcement that the Orioles had lost in Tampa. This was the reaction at Yankee Stadium:
Several minutes later, I took the following photo when Robinson Cano was at bat:
The man is incredible. As you can see above, he was 4-for-4 with two homers, six RBIs, and three runs, and to cap it off, he walked in his final plate appearance.
In the top of the 9th inning, I headed to the bleachers above the Red Sox’s bullpen. Look what was lurking behind the left-center field wall:
It didn’t take long for Yankees ace Freddie Garcia to strike out the side, prompting his teammates to rush in from the bullpen:
The Red Sox relievers slowly made the trek across the field, leaving this guy to deal with the ball bag:
Click the photo above for a closer look. See the balls on the ground in the corner of the bullpen? There were half a dozen, and that guy left them all there.
Meanwhile, this was taking place just in front of me:
There were NINE balls in the bullpen, and when it became clear that they weren’t gonna get tossed up into the bleachers, I took off and headed toward the 100 Level seats. On the way, I ran into my friend Leon Feingold, who was there with a girlfriend named Blanca. I told them that we all had a chance to get baseballs, but we had to move fast. This was the result:
(Leon is 6-foot-6.)
The groundskeeper tossed all the balls into the crowd, and look who else got one:
That’s Mark McConville. He was about to leave when I arrived with Leon and Blanca; from where he’d been standing, he couldn’t see any of the balls in the bullpen, so I told him to stick around. (By the way, the reason why he’s holding four baseballs is that he gave one to a kid during BP.)
Here are the eight balls that I took home:
Why eight and not nine? Because I gave one of my Camden Yards commemorative balls to a security guard who’d been especially nice to me all season.
• 14 balls at this game (eight pictured above because I gave six away)
• 633 balls in 78 games this season = 8.12 balls per game.
• 870 consecutive games with at least one ball
• 395 consecutive games with at least two balls
• 210 lifetime games with ten or more balls
• 6,452 total balls
(I’m raising money again this season for Pitch In For Baseball, a non-profit charity that provides baseball equipment to underprivileged kids all over the world. Click here to learn more about my fundraiser, and click here to see the prizes that I’ll be giving away to donors.)
• 45 donors
• $2.72 pledged per ball (if you add up all the pledges)
• $38.08 raised at this game
• $1,721.76 raised this season
• $20,878.76 raised since I started my fundraiser in 2009
Of the eight balls that I kept, one has an invisible ink stamp. Here’s a side-by-side comparison of it in regular light versus black light:
Finally, since people are asking about my post-season plans, I’m going to attend Game 2 of the ALDS tomorrow (Monday the 8th) in Baltimore, and I might make it to another game or two after that. Stay tuned . . .